We are only as sick as our secrets.
Stephen King’s very first novel was Carrie, and that should be testament to the extent a mind can try to challenge itself to delve into the sinister. The novel sparked off a horror narrative that was almost like reading Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar. The ideas and concepts are all internal rather than external; except maybe for in cases of Cujo where the external is immersive enough to enter our personal. However, most King novels spoke of the subliminal devil, the devil that rests inside us. It often used tools of insidious ideologies manifesting as the bogeyman. These thoughts were ours, their manifestation was born out of complete and utter despair, and more often that not nothing could scare someone that the very limit of their own evil interiors. With monologues that always played with raw, immature, and sometimes nascent thoughts, the narrative of King’s books becomes eerie simply because the monsters aren’t under the bed, they are under our human surface.
In the sudden, brief silence, she heard something within her turn over. Perhaps only her soul.
The book about a timid girl with telekinesis is raised by a mother who is tyrannical and religiously fanatical. Her foray into a normal adolescence with the baggage of repressive doom is frightening as it all is expressed in the form of a fatal devastation. Her life is a horror train, first at the hands of her mother then enabled by the bullies at her school, so we expect something like the prom massacre but without the actual implementation of it. Carrie the movie, may just be more severe because of Sissy Spacek’s brilliant embodiment of the titular character but the book with it’s build up is equally enthralling!
Try to stop me and I’ll kill you all! Drive you crazy and then kill you all! You can’t stop me!
Imagine every debilitating urban legend giving you a jump scare. Pennywise The Dancing Clown is literally that monster we are forever warned against. Lurking in the shadows, ready to take us away, catching us at our most vulnerable and presenting itself. Like a dark thought that presents itself in your mind and percolates to the point of manifesting as a monster taking you away. The novel uses literary tools throughout the span to bring elements of trauma, repressed emotions, memories.
3. The Stand
He smiles a lot. But I think there might be worms inside him making him smile.
The longest Stephen King novel looks at dystopia as a horror plot, except that nothing can turn around the fright of an Armageddon than how our present reality, in it’s inward utopia is actually a dystopia in making. With a strain of influenza that was intended for biological warfare ultimately kills of 99% of the world. There is pandemonium, there is apocalypse, there is commentary on the balance of power and struggles. All tied neatly with a ribbon of despair and doom.
4. Salem’s Lot
The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.
King often referred to this book as one of his favourite because of how the setting of small town itself was an important character. The story set in Jerusalem’s Lot, a small town, sees an occurrence of its inhabitants becoming vampires at night. The plot was obvious and simple horror, but as always the frictions of a small town came rustling up.
5. Dead Zone
Ninety-five percent of people who walk the earth are simply inert. One percent are saints, and one percent are assh*les. The other three percent are people who do what they say they can do.
Well, imagine Final Destination, but without the overall ambitiousness of premonitions. King’s novel dealt with clairvoyance and precognition. It deals with the expanse of character Johnny’s mind that is now damaged from an accident and a further coma. Where your ability and superpower is actually counterproductive to your existence and peace of mind, that is where the dead zone basically lies.
6. The Shining
We sometimes need to create unreal monsters and bogies to stand in for all the things we fear in our real lives.
One can’t possibly encapsulate The Shining into any simple literary category. At once the very epitome of horror and the epitome of all the possible literary elements that King is all about, The Shining is a soft attack on the basis of human sanity and mentality, it then turns the knife around and out comes the innards of our very soul. The Shining’s protagonist Jack Torrance is all of us in facets and that’s the real monster of the novel – how you are your own biggest enemy.
7. Pet Sematary
Life sucks, then you die
Well, nothing ever good comes out of a cemetery. The misspelling actually alludes to the horror behind this. More overt than closeted like the other novels on the list, the novel relies a lot on jump scares and a jump scare in a novel is actually quite tough to employ as readers usually feel indulgent with the fright building up slowly. Pet Sematary lures the readers in with typical horror plots however toys with the idea of humanity losing their sheen compared to those who lie dead.
It was amazing, wasn’t it, how bad you could hurt when there was nothing physically wrong.
Okay, if we are really discussing abject horror, nothing in the world even comes to the terror of Cujo jumping and bashing against the windshield of a car. The droolly, scary, worrisome Cujo is set in a scenario where a woman and her son are not only caged within their car seeking refuge from a possessed dog but also caged within the confines of a socially fractured life. The juxtaposition is intelligent and makes you nauseous, and the obvious omnipresence of Cujo freaks you out so hard!
In the dark, rationality seemed stupid and logic a dream. In the dark he thought with his skin.
Lastly, the book that sparked off a kind of idolism that was insidious and sinister. The idea of a fan turning into your biggest enemy and ruining your life and keeping you hostage, and physically torturing you just because you met with an accident near their proximity tells you how truly unfair sometimes life is, and how horror doesn’t always means jump scares it also means a tale of misfortune!